Sunday 13 September 2015


Bruce Mactavish struck again this afternoon with a cautious text message about a possible Little Stint in Renews. Having driven for a possible Little Stint in Ontario (2012) for over 12 hours that turned out to be an odd Least Sandpiper I kept my excitement down. Considering that this time it was only a 3 hour round trip, and knowing that I wouldn't have a chance to go again until next weekend the decision was easy to make!

Here's what we saw:

The bird was about the same size as a nearby Semipalmated Sandpiper but was notably more slender. It was obviously smaller than a nearby White-rumped and Baird's Sandpiper.

In general it was a bright red/orange bird (like a Least Sandpiper), but it had black legs without any hint of yellow or olive colouration. The breast side patches were very noticeable - much more than I have ever seen on a Least or Semi Sandpiper. Importantly, these patches had dark streaking throughout adding to the overall prominence of the patch.

Two things to note on the following photo:

- The supercilium (white eyebrow) starts in front of the eye and continues beyond the back of the eye, it also has a short branch that extends up and backwards which is parallel with the central crown stripe. This is called a split supercilium - a key feature for Little Stint!

- Although not really reliable, the toes appear to be unwebbed. Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers both have webbed toes - but it can be very very difficult to see (or photograph) in the field. So this one photo is not sufficient to rule this out.

Note that the primaries extend just beyond the tail. AND, more importantly, there is a long primary projection beyond the tertials.

One thing we noted on todays bird were the two white "lines" down the back of the bird. Juvenile Least and Pectoral sandpipers also have a white "line" down the back. In fact, it is the lateral most mantle feathers that have a thick white fringe - this set of feathers, with their white edges, extends down the border between the scapular and mantle feathers creating the appearance of a white line.
There appeared to be a second similar white line extending in the same direction, but within the scapulars.

The white lines down the back and sides of a Wilson's Snipe help demonstrate what I'm trying to describe:

Something else I noticed was a faint rufousy cloud across the breast that connected the two breast patches. 

The tarsus is longer (or at least, more of the tarsus is visible) - this is the part above the "knee".

Note how the tertials have a rufous fringing on the probable Little Stint (left), versus the grey/white fringed tertials of the Semi Sandpiper (right)

Size comparison:

Looking less pot-bellied, longer winged, and with a prominent breast patch in comparison with the Semi Sandpiper (back)

One feature of Little Stint vs. Semi & Least Sandpiper is the dark centre to the coverts and scapulars. The base colour of Semi and Least Sandpipers seems to be greyer, therefore the dark centre of the feather pops out against this grey background.

Least Sandpiper:

Semipalmated Sandpiper:


These dark lines were never visible on todays probable Little Stint simple because the base colour of the feathers is just as dark.


What a bird! I am thankful I had the day off today!